Adam Dollard – Hero of New France
Very often in Canada, we ignore our heroes. Such is the case of Adam Dollard, Sieur des Ormeaux and a Huron Chief named Anahotaha Dollard. He was a 25 year old professional soldier from France. He was posted to the colony of New France in 1657.
By 1660, New France was facing a situation. Over 900 Iroquois, in two separate parties, were moving to unite as a prelude to their attacks on Montreal, Trois Riviere and Quebec. Adam Dollard recognized the situation and decided to take action.
One of the better descriptions of the heroism of Dollard was described by Historian Robert Jarvis:
He (Dollard) approached the governor of New France, Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, in Montreal.Dollard proposed that he, along with a small force of volunteers, could set up a defensive position in the hope of preventing a junction of the two Iroquois bands. He wanted to make his stand near the rapids of Chute a Blondeau, where the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers converge – a place called the Long Sault.
Maisonneuve assented to Dollard’s request, and Dollard started to gather recruits. By the end of April, 1660, 16 men had come forward. They were all young men of humble station: discharged soldiers, farmers and artisans. The oldest was 30. Almost all the rest were in their early 20’s. They all had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and sweethearts in the three settlements, and ,if their desperate efforts failed, they would all die — either by musket and tomahawk in the burning villages, or by barbarous torture after capture. The task of Dollard and his companions was to die so that the people that they loved could live. With no doubt in their minds as to their fate, the 17 young men confessed, made their wills, and received the last sacrament in the stone chapel of the Hotel-Dieu.
After two weeks of arduous travel, Dollard and his men reached the Long Sault. A short distance form the Ottawa, on the Eastern side of the Sault, Dollard found an abandoned stockade, but for some reason, he and his men dawdled instead of repairing the stockade and provisioning it with food and water.
Dollard was joined by a party of 40 Huron under their chief, Anahotaha, as well as by four Algonquin. After two days, scouts at the head of the Sault spotted two Iroquois canoes coming towards the stockade. The Frenchmen and their allies ambushed the canoes but one brave escaped to warn the main party. Forty or fifty canoes soon landed, and the Iroquois warriors immediately rushed the stockade. Dollard and his men fired volley after volley into them and they broke. A second attack was launched, this time from all sides. When it and a third attack failed, the Iroquois retreated and held a council of war.
For five days, there was a lull in the fighting. Renegade Huron fighting with the Iroquois directed a constant barrage of taunts and promises at the Huron fighting with Dollard. One by one, the Dollard Huron jumped over the barricades to join the Iroquois. In the end, only the gallant Anahotaha remained.
Inside the stockade, the 22 men stood by their loopholes and waited. Dollard and his companions were stupefied from lack of sleep. Water and food, like hope, had long since vanished. Escape or rescue was impossible All they could do was to buy some time to save their families.
On the fifth day, more than 500 warriors from the Richelieu arrived, and now over 700 hundred Iroquois faced Dollard. For three days, the Iroquois prepared for the final assault, keeping up a day-and-night harassment against Dollard’s little band.
On the morning of the fourth day, the assault was delivered from all quarters, spearheaded by volunteers carrying torches and crude shields. The attack was beaten back. A second assault reached the barricades, and the braves started to set fire to the stockade. In desperation, Dollard tried to toss a hand-made grenade filled with musket balls and gunpowder over the stockade into the midst of the attackers. The grenade struck the top of the barricade and fell back into the stockade. It exploded killing several of the defenders and blinding others. In the following confusion, the Iroquois gained the barricade. In hand-to-hand fighting, Dollard and all of his men were soon cut down. The epic of the Long Sault was over.
The Iroquois returned to their own territories. They reasoned that, if Dollard and his few followers could cause them so much trouble at the Long Sault, an attack on Montreal would be far too costly.
I imagine that if I asked who died at the Alamo in Texas, most Canadians would know the names of either Davy Crocket or Jim Bowie. The battle at Long Sault was, in a fashion, New France’s Alamo and the equivalent to Crocket and Bowie was Adam Dollard des Ormeaux and Anahotaha — the hero of New France.